Ann Arbor Hands on Museum

This past weekend my husband and I took Rosaleigh to the Hands on Museum in Ann Arbor.  The drive was less than 30 minutes from our home.   Parking was easy, on the weekend there are plenty of available spots close to the museum.  However, I could see that parking on a weekday could be a huge hassle or costly.  Admission was $9 for ages 2 and up and under 2 was free.

Upon arrival we were greeted by a friendly employee who answered all of my questions about becoming a member.  She suggested that if I was unsure about becoming a member that I could wait until the end of my visit to decide.  The restrooms and coat room were conveniently located near the entrance.  They also offered lockers in their coat room.  We stowed our jackets and started to explore.  We climbed up the musical steps into the First Floor Concourse.  Rosaleigh saw a whole room filled with red foam building blocks. They were scattered all over.  She had so much fun throwing them around.

The First Floor Concourse also contained a tornado exhibit.  Rosa really thought this was cool.  She tried to kick and hit the tornado which then dissipated leaving a smoky cloud.   There were whisper dishes and other exhibits that we didn’t get to check out because Rosa wasn’t really interested.

I later discovered that we missed out on a rather large water table exhibit and plenty of mini exhibits that went along with their “Michigan Rocks” theme.  There were tables set up in many locations with different activities.  One room had fossils for the children to discover.  There was also a house that was part of the exhibit “Building in a Building”.

We moved on to the Preschool Gallery.  Rosaleigh enjoyed this section immensely.  There was so much for her to do and explore, puzzles, toys, books, Duplos, blocks, a fire engine, a soft environment  for infants, a place to climb, kitchen stuff and her favorite, the water play area.  We spent a majority of our time in this section of the museum.

The Preschool Gallery is situated in its own room that has one set of doors to enter and one set to exit.  We were greeted with a “welcome” from the young lady sitting near the door, but strangely when I said “Hi, how are you?” in response, she looked quite puzzled.  Within the room there are two sections that are gated off, the water area and the infant area.  The room was very tidy, clean, and the equipment was in great shape.  The puzzles and some of the toys showed some minor wear.

Rosa’s favorite section, by far, was the water table.  The museum provided aprons in three different sizes along with an electric hand dryer.  The water table had three different sections that were all connected.  Water flowed from a tap near the top and into the other two sections that formed a “U” shape.  Each level was a step lower than then previous level, creating two mini waterfalls.  There were plenty of plastic water animals, water toys, scoops and boats.  Stools made it easier for smaller children to access the taller parts of the water table.

The infant area was filled with soft blocks, infant toys, sensory tubes and a tunnel for the children to climb through.  Parents and children are required to take off their shoes before entering for this special area designated for children under the age of 18 months.  Rosa spend a little bit of time in this area, and went back to it a couple of times, but at 17 months old, it didn’t hold her interest for too long.

The child sized fire truck was a big hit for not only her, but most of the other children present.  There were two fireman’s uniforms with hats and enough room for three children to sit on the seat.  But the best part about this fire truck was the ball feature.  There were five blue handballs that could be placed in the hole right behind the seating area.  The balls went down the tunnel, then down two connecting ramps that ran the length of the fire truck, then into a bucket.  Rosa loved putting the balls in the hole and watching them roll down the ramps. The only draw back was that she needed to climb on the seat to reach the hole.

  We could have easily spent the whole day with Rosa in the Preschool Gallery, but Chancellor and I were eager to check out the rest of the Museum.  There were three more floors that we had left to discover.  We moved to the second floor that housed a rock climbing wall, bubble exhibits, a walk on piano and a giant magnet with washers.

The second floor also featured the Discovery Room that featured plants, flowers and animals native to Michigan, the Legacy Gallery which hosted exhibits about simple machines and Lyons’ Country Store, an exhibit demonstrating a store from the 1920’s.

The third floor housed the light and optics exhibit.  Rosa enjoyed playing the Laser Harp and placing her hand on the plasma ball.

MediaWorks could be found on the fourth floor.  We explored green screen technology, how guitar strings move, and a motion detector that turned movement into art on a huge screen.

Overall this was a great experience for us all.  Attending with Rosa did affect how we enjoyed the museum.  I think it is a great museum for all ages.  There is so much to do and it is well worth the trip and the cost.

We decided not to get the membership as it was $75 for the family.  Which means that you need to use it for 9 total tickets to make it worth the cost. For us that is 5 visits with just the three of us or 3 visits if we bring my son, Damian.  The membership does include ASTC and ACM reciprocity.  This includes:
Cranbrook Institute of Science
Detroit Science Center
Exhibit Museum of Natural History
Flint Children’s Museum
COSI – in Ohio
Imagination Station, Toledo

Here is the catch, if the museum is farther than 90 miles admission is free, while museums within 90 miles of your membership site only offer a discount.  How silly!  What is preventing someone from getting a membership at say Brooklyn Children’s Museum (in New York), then using it for all the Michigan Museums?

A big “Thank You” going out to Wendy who suggested that we visit this fantastic museum!!!!

Hope you enjoy,

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